The Future Learning track 2021 of the Falling Walls Foundation (Germany) as crowd-source of what the future might hold for learning

The Future Learning track 2021 of the Falling Walls Foundation (Germany) as crowd-source of what the future might hold for learning.

Ben Janssen1 & Dominic Orr2

1 OpenEd Consult, Netherlands
2 atingi at GIZ (Germany) , University of Nova Gorica (Slovenia)

Digital technologies and their impacts radically changed the globe on an economic, political, and societal level. Digital networks and the Internet are not only connecting different information and creating communication channels, but they are changing how society is organized and works. Harnessing new technologies is not simply a question of what technology can do. It is also the resulting practices and processes of digital transformation that are changing the ways we communicate, live and work. While this brings considerable challenges with it, it also offers new opportunities and potentials.

This also applies to learning and education, in the broadest sense. Every aspect of the (educational) knowledge transfer process is undergoing changes due to the introduction and possibilities of new digital technologies. These include, for example, the digitisation of educational resources which allow new forms of teaching and learning. Such new forms can range from the use of specific learning applications to a fully adaptive electronic learning environment such as MOOCs or the so-called holobots (virtual holographic robots) for face-to-face teaching. Through digitalisation, it is possible to access information, knowledge, and expertise worldwide through for example social media. Of course, a good infrastructure, up-to-date hardware and software, access to constantly available internet connections with sufficient capacity and speed - are prerequisites for access to this new world of learning.

Educational objectives are also shifting because of digitalisation. The half-life of some of the knowledge and skills that learners acquire during their initial period of education is increasing. This results in the need for refresher and update courses in the sense of lifelong learning. And other skills are becoming more important, as a foundation for future learning and personal development. Additionally, digitalisation of education also means the digitalisation of the organization of learning, involving the use of ICT in the supporting and administrative processes. This can become a benefit to individual learners too, helping them organise their learning and follow future-orientated learning pathways.

More broadly, it appears that the digitalisation of education and learning is impacting the three essential building blocks of education and learning: content development, delivery of and access to learning content, and recognition of achievement through assessments and certification systems for recognition by institutions, employers, and governments (Orr et al. 2020)

For the second time, the Falling Walls Foundation in Berlin Germany, had invited people and organization to nominate projects in the broad field of ‘future learning’ for the Breakthrough of the Year. The Call for Nominations for the track “Future Learning” was advertised as follows:

“Innovations in learning have become increasingly relevant in the last ten years – and the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated this development. We are looking for innovative initiatives that significantly improve learners’ lives through their exceptional concepts and practices. We are welcoming submissions that redefine the way we learn and educate, that can show off a high impact with their respective target groups, are scalable and replicable, and offer a high degree of accessibility.”

Falling Walls believes that open-mindedness, international exchange, ‘contacts, and connectivity are prerequisites for overcoming global challenges together and enhancing academic excellence through worldwide, interdisciplinary cooperation. In 2020, Falling Walls decided to introduce a new track to reflect the importance of developments in digital education, so that more people have access to knowledge, but also because it considers education to be an important factor in the future development of the scientific community. Especially in this category, Covid-19 could be seen as an accelerator for change. It was expected that ideas and solutions that had previously been used on a smaller scale and were unknown to the public might benefit from the greater attention Falling Walls gives them, reach a larger scale, or inspire other actors in the field - as is envisioned for the other Falling Walls categories.

In 2021 the following selection criteria were advertised:

● Proposals showcase novel concepts, best-practices, or technologies that contribute towards a better future for learners and educators.
● Proposals can explain how they are a meaningful improvement, modification, augmentation, or substitution of /in parts of a learning ecosystem.
● Proposals meet requirements of (emerging) evidence for impact and scalability. The idea must have at least one year of being implemented with its intended users.

For the Falling Walls Foundation, we have made a review of the submissions and winners (Janssen & Orr, 2022).

In this contribution we will present the results of this review. We begin with an analysis of the 2021 submissions (71 projects from 34 countries) using the HolonIQ “Global Learning Landscape” taxonomy ( This model gives a common structure for positioning the submissions in the global education and learning landscape.
Next the geographical distribution of the projects as well as the types of submitters will be looked upon. Then an assessment will be made of the potential impact of the submissions. We will take a closer look at the ten most successful submissions. And last but least we will identify and discuss forward-looking trends covered by the applicants and their innovations in this year’s global call.


Janssen, B & Orr, D. (2022) Falling Walls Future Learning. Report 2021, Falling Walls Foundation, Berlin. (to be published)

Orr, D., Luebcke, M., Schmidt, J. P., Ebner, M., Wannemacher, K., Ebner, M., & Dohmen, D. (2020). Higher Education Landscape 2030: A Trend Analysis Based on the AHEAD International Horizon Scanning. Springer, Cham. Higher Education Landscape 2030 | SpringerLink


:eye_in_speech_bubble: Presented by:: Ben Janssen
:sun: Conference Track: Thematic Session: Publishers and EdTech Providers - Open Education Friend or Foe?
:spiral_calendar: Track Date/Time: 2022-05-24T09:00:00Z (your local time)
:speech_balloon: Language: English
:calling: Pretalx link: The Future Learning track 2021 of the Falling Walls Foundation (Germany) as crowd-source of what the future might hold for learning :: Open Education Global 2022 :: pretalx

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